Black Friday is a no-go for some shoppers
For the first time in at least a decade, Jeanine Mendez did no shopping on Black Friday. The 31-year-old Brooklynite didn’t head to any stores or check her laptop and phone for online deals. Instead, she planned to head to a local park and go to Manhattan with her parents visiting from Florida.
“Stores are insane. It’s stressful,” the start-up consultant said. “People are everywhere. I just want to spend time with my family and be off on Black Friday.”
While some people think shopping on Thanksgiving is sacrilege, hunting for bargains on Black Friday doesn’t have that stigma. An estimated 116 million Americans will shop on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation’s forecast. Not these people. Call them Black Friday ditchers – individuals who refuse to contend with 2 a.m. wake-ups calls, crowds, bodyslamming and such conspicuous consumption mere hours after going around the dinner table saying everything they’re thankful for. (Hint: It’s usually health and family, not cashmere sweaters and flat-screen TVs.)
Buoyed by #OptOut and #BuyNothingDay hashtags, they point to overconsumption, personal financial troubles or simply a desire to spend a day off doing something else. Black Friday holds no interest – credit card or otherwise – anymore.
“Most years, I was disappointed that I couldn’t get something because you have to be there super early, but I was never an I-have-to-sleep-in-a-tent-toget-a-TV type of person,” Mendez said.
She used to walk around malls starting at midnight with her older brother, fueled by coffee and the thrill of the hunt, and then come home exhausted by 7 a.m. to go to sleep. Her new philosophy – despite previously scoring an Apple Watch for almost 50 percent off and 30 pieces of clothing from the Gap for $150 – stemmed from a need for “completely disconnecting,” becoming selfemployed and a desire to shift from giving things to giving experiences, such as the South American vacation her parents are getting and movie passes and restaurant gift certificates for the other dozen-plus people on her list.
“I have so much stuff in my house and on my person,” Mendez said. “We’re constantly surrounded by stuff.”
That plethora – both in one’s home and on gift-giving lists – is what gave Black Friday the runway to become a retail phenomenon and an official capitallettered holiday. When the economy tanked in 2008, the need for bargains reached a fever pitch, but more recently, Black Friday and its co-conspirators Thanksgiving Day Sales, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have morphed into Black November. Now, there’s a backlash. “It’s cycled out of vogue, and we’ve moved from interviews on the local news looking at the great deals they got to three people were hurt in two fights and four people were arrested,” said Karthik Easwar, a consumer expert at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “Black Friday will evolve.”
Psychologists call this reactance – when people are pressured in one direction, they can do a 180. Overwhelmed by Black Friday ads and media coverage, shoppers may do the same thing as when confronted by a pushy car salesman and simply walk away.
“People are realizing you can abstain or stay away. It is a way to say, ‘I don’t agree with any of this,’ “Easwar said. “We see sales all the time. That’s fundamentally changed the way we look at Black Friday. ‘Why drive to the store and wait in line when I can wait it out and get it Dec. 1?’ ”
While the motivation to head over to a mall is dying, the desire to find good deals won’t change anytime soon, he added. Part of what’s aiding that is the immediacy of online shopping – no aggressive fellow shoppers, plus no need for pants.
The former is what made Scott Porter say good-bye to Black Friday this year. The 23-year-old golf pro from Newnan, Georgia, grew up in a city of 900 people with no stop light, so dealing with a bargain-hunting mass of humanity isn’t his thing. He forced himself to go in past years with his cousins. “I was tired of fighting the crowds,” he said. “It’s so many people. It gets too chaotic for me.”
Instead, Porter said he plans to make all his gift purchases online using a special bank account he has saved $1,200 in. He acknowledged he won’t miss the shopping or the adrenaline rush but the experience itself, and he fears not getting best bargains online.
“I’d rather try my luck on Cyber Monday,” he said. “It’s funny how some people react to getting good deals and how they’re willing to act.”
For Tammy McCleary of Lincoln, North Dakota, it was a matter of aging out of Black Friday. After close to 20 years of rushing out after Thanksgiving, the pressure to get the hottest toys and video games quickly is gone.
“I’m getting older, and I don’t have young children to buy for anymore, (and) I don’t need a lot,” the 49-year-old assistant at the University of Mary said. “I don’t have patience to shop with other people.”
A Black Friday shopper waits to check out at the Nebraska Furniture Mart store in Omaha on Friday.